So, when I got pregnant, I was totally unprepared for just about everything. The Armchair Mommies and other assorted backseat parenters, the completely overwhelming task of creating a gift registry and the equally daunting job of finding a nice way to tell all gift-givers to PLEASE NOT VEER FROM IT, the nightmare that is maternitywear to any self-respecting clothes horse. Everything is a goddamned process and the entire world looks at you with a knowing smile while they shake their heads smugly and tell you with a condescending sneer “Oh, you’ll see…” or “Not what you expected, IS it?”
Most of those things, I can handle, because thankfully I still have a mouth that functions much as it did pre-parasite, though perhaps a bit LESS filtered due to hormonal tempest. I have no problem being clear with people who cross a line and I’m completely past worrying if telling people to stick to a registry lacks etiquette (If Emily Post disagrees, then she obviously never played host to an unruly passenger), and if I’m honest, the prospect of wearing stretchy black pants and oversized tunics for the next 5 months isn’t exactly a poke in the eye with a sharp stick; I can do a lot with accessories and shoes.
But what I can’t handle, what is proving to be THE WORST, the sand in my vagina, is the complete malfunction of every bodily system of my corporeal being. My body is no longer my own. At all. In the slightest. Yet with each new malady, my physical form rebels against my nature and shouts at the sky: “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?!”
At the beginning, the nausea came riding in on a bile-colored steed, an evil harbinger of things that would never be the same. It took my appetite and energy and will to live, and, sustained on a couple of saltines and some flattened ginger ale, I crawled through the weeks, cursing the Sacred Mother and the womb she rode in on.
It eventually released its stranglehold, but with the dawn of the 4th month, the instant I relaxed into a good meal of solid food, the constipation descended, and the hits keep on coming. I can move and exercise, but only so much before my heart starts pounding and the blood rushes to my head. My balance is shot and while before, I approximated a baby deer just getting its sea legs whenever treading uneven ground, I must find a stable seat to even put on socks.
I can no longer enjoy cheese without intense discomfort and I can feel my organs being squeezed into a smaller space, hip-checked out of the way by the mannerless thug(ette?) that has taken residence. There is cramping in my lower abdomen as my uterus explodes out of its rightful place, a roommate with shit overflowing, heedless of personal bubble. Pants are abandoned and meals cut to a third of their rightful size lest reflux rear its acid-head to chew holes through stomach and esophagus.
What was once a strong and defined shape is now rounded and overflowing; the cup runneth and runneth, expanding beyond boundaries, turning soft and pliant where once it knew angles and borders. Even my mind is full to bursting, overripe with the effort of remaining contained, exhausted and split beyond its skin.
There is nothing, I contend, that is beautiful about this process, and I am apt to call a liar the girl who beams beatifically saying that she LOVED being pregnant. I can smell the smoke of her pants from here, aflame from the fib as I lie awake writhing from stomach cramps because I haven’t shit in 3 days. I shake my head at her in disbelief as I finish yet another novel in the wee hours because sleep won’t come despite my exhaustion, and is only to be interrupted anyway when some tiny foot trods blithely on my bladder.
This body, no longer mine, is instead the domain of its yet-to-be issue, and while I relish the future and envision the tiny hands and eyes, I cannot glory in or express joy for the nerve it has to so completely usurp that which it doesn’t have the voice to ask for kindly. I have been taken over, and there is nothing pleasant about it. There is no miracle here, only discomfort and unease with the promise of more in hoards. Each morning I shower and run the loofah over an alien landscape, distended and misshapen, veiny, plump and awkward. With these new dimensions my self is shed and every inch becomes less my own.
Where is that beauty? That miracle? That reason for being? As my waist disappears, so does that idea. It was a myth. A misty legend meant to lure strong wills into the depths, to sugar-coat and make palatable a less convenient and infinitely more lurid and unseemly truth. I am hijacked. And my body, apparently, negotiates with terrorists.